Warning: This article is about suicide and may be distressing for some readers.
A vulnerable teenager was inappropriately touched in Auckland City Hospital by a worker who allegedly carried out similar attacks on an unknown number of other patients.
He was eventually stopped after the teenager made a police complaint and security staff identified the man through CCTV footage of an assault on another person, her parents have alleged.
The April 28 attack on the teenage girl, who was at Auckland City Hospital receiving mental health care, had such an impact that it was followed by a suicide attempt, her parents say.
Her parents say they have been told by other hospital nursing and security staff that the man had allegedly carried out several other assaults on patients.
"This guy is an absolute predator," said the girl's father. "The DHB has been terrible. They have swept it under the carpet.
"The security people had complaints from other patients that this guy had touched people inappropriately.
"It wasn't until we made an official complaint that it came out they were aware this guy was doing these things in the hospital.
"The security team was aware of someone doing this. No one had made an official complaint to the police so no one took any action."
The Weekend Herald has confirmed that the man recently pleaded guilty to assaulting the teenager. He will be sentenced next month.
The number of the attacks carried out by the man is unknown. Auckland District Health Board refused to answer questions on the basis the man was a temporary contractor.
It has also refused to answer questions about the actions of its security company and whether there was information which would have meant the man could have been stopped before he assaulted the teenager.
Instead, media spokeswoman Sarah Bakker said the man "was not actually an Auckland DHB employee, they were a temp contracted by Alpha Recruitment".
"Because of this, it would be inappropriate for us to comment, except to say that we take the safety of our patients, visitors and staff very seriously, and we have zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour."
The hospital has sent a letter of apology to the family.
Patient Management Services director Alex Pimm wrote saying: "On behalf of Auckland DHB I would like to apologise to you and your daughter for the events that took place on Auckland DHB's hospital site."
The girl's mother told the Weekend Herald the man assaulted her daughter twice although the mother was unaware until after the second assault.
The mother said they first encountered the man while waiting for an elevator in the main hospital building.
The mother was on crutches and her daughter had her hands full holding a tray with coffee.
After the doors closed, it is alleged the man inappropriately touched her daughter although it was dismissed as accidental contact.
But the man later joined them in a second lift.
At the end of that elevator journey, the man inappropriately touched the girl again. The manner of the assault left no doubt it was deliberate, the mother said.
The mother had walked ahead of the teen but heard her daughter shout: "What the hell?"
"She caught up to me and she was tearing up, really upset. I said 'what's happened', and she told me immediately, 'he touched me'.
"He had touched her in the first set of lifts but she had given him the benefit of the doubt. Then he did it again and that's when she knew it was deliberate."
It was reported to a nurse and security was called, with the pair asked if they wanted to make a police complaint.
Staff told her "security was aware of an individual and there had been previous complaints about an individual".
"But security's position was that the people who had complained weren't prepared to make a police report so their hands were tied and they couldn't do anything."
It took two weeks for police to track down the man by studying CCTV after an assault on another person, the parents allege.
During that time, in the wake of the assault, her daughter tried to take her life.
"The incidents are definitely linked. We were on a really good path before the assault," the teen's mother said.
The girl who was assaulted was one of many young people interviewed as part of the Herald's Break The Silence series. The series aimed to start a national conversation about New Zealand's shocking youth suicide rate and how we are trying to tackle it.
Her message was one of hope after multiple mental health admissions and repeated attempts to end her life.
The father of the girl said that the assault had a huge impact on the girl, who has mental health issues and was receiving care after a number of suicide attempts.
Since the assault and suicide attempt, she has sought further medical care after developing an eating disorder.
"The whole last two years have been shit," said the father. "Mental health services are a joke in this country. It sucks that the hospital has done nothing for my daughter."
Alpha Recruitment managing director Colin Mathieson said he did not have the answers to the questions the health board would not answer.
"I am devastated to hear what he did in the lift. That is appalling."
Mathieson said he was called by the health board after his employee had been identified and detained by security.
These are the questions Auckland District Health Board wouldn't answer because it said the person carrying out the assault was employed as a temp.
• Has ADHB carried out its own review of the actions of this staff member and its response to his actions?
• Was ADHB made aware by its security company that there were other alleged incidents involving the same man?
• Does ADHB know how many people were indecently or sexually assaulted by the man?
• If it does not know, what efforts have been made to find out?
• Has ADHB apologised to any of the patients assaulted by the man?
• What parts of the hospital did the man have access to and was he able to access patients who might not have been conscious or were asleep?
• When was the man employed by ADHB and when did he finished worked for ADHB?
• Was the man subject to a full reference and police check, and if so, what were the results?
Where to get help
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.target='_blank'>KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757